Former Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian called for an end to President Serzh Sarkisian’s rule and sweeping political and economic reforms in Armenia as his new political party held its founding congress on Friday.
“We will be ready to cooperate with all those political forces, organizations and individuals that want achieve regime change and implement radical changes in the country,” Oskanian said after being formally elected chairman of the party called Hamakhmbum (Consolidation).
Oskanian and several other senior members of the party were previously affiliated with the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the second largest parliamentary force. They quit the BHK last year after its founding leader, Gagik Tsarukian, was forced into political retirement following a standoff with President Sarkisian. They are regarded by some observers as loyalists of former President Robert Kocharian.
Oskanian again insisted that Kocharian, who is very critical of the current Armenian government, is not behind the new opposition party. But he did not rule out the possibility of cooperation with the ex-president.
In his speech at the Hamakhmbum congress, Oskanian deplored what he called a lack of democracy, press freedom, judicial independence and “equal conditions” for doing business in the country. “We can constantly pretend that we are a democratic state with a free [market-based] economy but the fact is that we are not,” he said.
“For example, if you do business you will feel on your skin on a daily basis that conditions are not equal, that there is no competition, and that you cannot be sure about the safety of your holdings,” he said.
Kocharian faced similar accusations by his political opponents throughout his rule from 1998-2008. Oskanian served as foreign minister during that decade.
The Syrian-born former minister, who lived in the United States before relocating to Armenia in 1990, promised that his party will embark on “radical reforms” if it succeeds in coming to power. That, he said, will include the conduct of democratic elections and the creation of a level playing field for all businesses.